Student profile: Kenny Fennell

Fennell, Kenny2My name is Kenny Fennell and I am a second year Master of Public Policy student at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy. I received my bachelor of science in civil and environmental engineering across the river from my home town of Cambridge from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. I have five years of experience working on economic development and infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, Haiti, Poland, and Honduras. This past summer I completed my Ford School internship by facilitating renewable energy projects in Jakarta, Indonesia with the U.S. Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation.

My policy focus is economic development and post-graduation, seeking to combine my civil engineering experience and policy degree in a project management role focused on community led economic development and inclusive revitalization projects.

Q – Public policy isn’t one of the most obvious career paths. Describe the path that brought you to it.

In my civil engineering career I’ve had the opportunity to work on a variety of projects from capacity building initiatives in Afghanistan to managing a group of volunteers for an Engineers Without Borders water resources project in Honduras. However, through these experiences I found was more interested with economic development strategy rather than engineering specifically. I enrolled at the Ford School to acquire the skills I need to engage the economic development process at a strategic level. Here at Ford I’ve gained the necessary skills to pivot my career not only because of the classes I took through Ford but because of the ability I have to take classes from schools across the Michigan campus. When I graduate, I will have taken classes from the Schools of Information, Business, Urban Planning, and Natural Resources and the Environment.

Q – What’s on your reading list this week? What are you doing for homework?

Lately I’ve been preparing for the continuation of my team’s Dow Sustainability Fellowship project. Since February we’ve been working in Detroit with the non-profit Focus: HOPE to identify barriers residents face when accessing car-sharing and ride-sharing technologies. Now that the fellowship is ending, we’re competing in the School of Public Health’s Innovation in Action and the College of LSA’s optimize incubators to develop our project of using human centered design principles to design shared-use mobility services to improve low resource communities’ access to jobs, food, education, and medical care. It seems every day we’re reaching into the network we’ve established inside and outside of Detroit to explore potential partnerships, funding, and legal structures for our project.

Q – What’s most important in life or what inspires you?

My parents inspire me. Because of them, I never realized how difficult we had it when I was young until I went to college. College was where I realized having teenage parents wasn’t considered normal and that they had worked hard to ensure I could have the opportunities to do what I want in life. It was through them I learned the traditional lessons of hard work and perseverance but also that what’s most important in life is to live in a way that creates positivity in the world.

Q – Favorite quote? 

I have a number of favorite quotes; however, my most applicable one in any event whether you’re making a major life decision such as applying to graduate school or a smaller decision such as whether or not to participate in class is “Never let your fear decide your fate.”

The application deadline approaches…

It is hard to believe that January 15th is nearly upon us. I hope 2017 has been treating you well thus far. Our office has received a number of questions multiple times so I thought we could provide some guidance here that might be helpful.


A number of students have had some confusion over submitting transcripts. For the purpose of the admission review:

  • We are happy to have you upload unofficial copies of transcripts from your degree-granting institution(s) with your online application for the admissions committee to review.
  • You are also welcome to upload unofficial transcripts from any other institutions you may have attended, but you are not required to do so.
  • All transcripts need to be uploaded as one document.
  • We do ask that you provide it in a format that is easy to understand. Some applicants have used advising report formats that are difficult to follow.
  • You will need to ensure that an official copy of your transcript is submitted to the Rackham School of Graduate Studies.
  • Here is further detail from Rackham as to the documentation they require.
  • Please note, this applies to institutions on a comparable grading scale. If your institution is not on a comparable grading scale, an official transcript will need to be submitted to Rackham.

Friend Account

When you begin your application, you are prompted to create a friend account, which enables you to access your application. Applicants sometimes get locked out of this account and need to have it reset. If you experience this situation, you should contact the Rackham Admissions office. You can either email or you can call 734-764-8129. We are unable to unlock friend accounts so you must contact Rackham directly.

Submission Deadline

We have received numerous inquiries about accepting materials after the January 15th deadline. While it is our strong preference to receive all materials by that date, we understand that sometimes letters of recommendation, transcripts, test scores, etc. may be a little late. We will be as flexible as possible but you must ensure that your application is submitted by January 15th.

We greatly look forward to reviewing applications and learning more about our prospective students!

Thanks, Beth





What do you do with a public policy degree? A guest post by Jennifer Niggemeier, Director of Graduate Career Services & Alumni Relations

Careers for Policy Wonks

In my many years (okay, it’s been 19, but who’s counting?) as Director of Graduate Career Niggemeier, Jennifer-2Services & Alumni Relations at the Ford School, I’ve worked with students through great economic times, downturns in the economy, Presidential and party transitions, and any number of shifts in policy priorities, trends in public-private partnerships, emerging fields and markets, and more.

Change and uncertainty can be disconcerting, and it can require (and build) resiliency and flexibility you didn’t realize you had (or wanted!) But here’s what I know through the many shifts and transitions over the years:  the world has, does, and will continue to need the skills of MPP/MPA graduates of the Ford School.

Our students, recent graduates, and alumni work across all sectors (e.g. federal, nonprofit, private, etc). From year to year, the sectors in which students accept internships and first jobs out of Ford shifts a bit. Much of that shift is influenced by individual choice (i.e. I want to work in local government). Some is influenced by the hiring market; for example, a reduction in federal workforce often leads to government work being outsourced to consulting firms, which leads to a greater interest on the part of consulting firms in recruiting at Ford.

You can see some of the data on internships and on first jobs for the past few years on our website.  Over the course of their careers, many alumni work in multiple sectors and on a host of policy issues. Our alumni careers map will allow you to read about some of their impressive career paths.

Given the diversity of interests among our students, our office’s goal for programming and our employer relations work is to continually evaluate and respond to the ever-changing landscape for policy wonks. We continue what works—which includes cultivating our many established employer relationships. And we grow our employer base to respond to changes in both student interests and workforce priorities.

So how does our career services team go about building the Ford School’s connections with employers of interest to policy students?

  • We survey students on their top organizations and policy areas of interest
  • We ask our faculty and alumni about the organizations doing cutting-edge work in their specific field or policy area
  • We listen for the organizations and issues that are emerging, keeping a close ear to our Policy Talks speakers, the media, community leaders, professional conference speakers, etc.
  • We follow the money trail: what organizations are being supported by foundations or receiving federal or state funding? Newly-funded priorities often require new staff support.
  • We follow the track record of success, identifying organizations where students individually developed internships or accepted jobs in organizations unfamiliar to us that are likely to be of interest to other students.
  • We then reach out to build recruiting relationships with the Ford School. We invite new organizations to host information sessions at the Ford School, post jobs and internships on FordCareers, receive our resume books, participate on a panel during our DC or Detroit career trips, etc.
  • Some of our work is “cold calling”, but for most part we leverage networks: that includes student networks, the incredible reach of U-M networks around the world, our very close Ford alumni networks, faculty networks, speaker networks, our donor networks, and more.

Employers and communities need strategic, collaborative, well-trained problem solvers and communicators.   The Ford School analytic and communications tool kit is relevant and transferrable across sectors and policy issues. This is why employers in all sectors actively seek out our interns and grads.

Should your career bring you to the Ford School, my team and I look forward to working with you this fall to forge the rewarding and meaningful career you seek.

— Jennifer Niggemeier, Director

Graduate Career Services & Alumni Relations